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Creative Economy Business Incubator

Adjustable waist jeans. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wolf

Professor: Sara Hartmann

Learn to think like an entrepreneur. Transform your artmaking into a business and earn course credit while doing it!

The Creative Economy Business Incubator is a one year-long studio elective course that aims to convey an entrepreneurial mindset to students with creative skills. Participants learn how to articulate their artistic practices into a rewarding endeavor. The Incubator is open for juniors, seniors, and graduate students, as well as MassArt alumni with early stage ventures, who are seeking to grow their businesses and improve their financial sustainability. The program welcomes solo artists and independent thinkers, as well as teams of up to four founders.

Students learn how to heed their creative calling while maintaining financial viability by studying entrepreneurship, strategy, marketing, and finance, and recognizing the importance of networking. In the fall semester, each founder surpasses progressive milestones that include testing product business models, identifying market demands, devising viable financial forecasts, and setting a measurable and achievable goal for the spring semester. In the spring, students engage with professional mentors, work on attaining goals, develop marketing plans, and interview industry models. Assignments are independent but group-learning is stimulated through team-ups on class projects and the possibility of long-term collaborations. Peer interaction and support can serve as an extra motivator, boosting ideas into reality. As a major networking hub, the incubator involves dozens of independent professionals annually, participating as mentors, guests, and visiting experts. On-site visits to various enterprises and interviews with their owners are part of the curriculum.

Imbued with a professional mindset customized to their artistic needs, students go on to lead more successful careers in the arts, create new businesses, or improve their existing ones. Examples of recent businesses include Jennifer Wolf’s (FD ‘21) eponymous adjustable jeans brand, addressed to women of all bodies, shapes and sizes. In the Incubator, Jennifer created a working product, found suppliers and progressed to manufacturing.

Nina Ennis’s (Fibers ‘21) home decor line, Nina Cherie, was featured in the nationally published W Magazine. Nina has diversified her means of production during the incubator, transitioning part of her manufacturing to knitting machines and factory production, while retaining a retail component.

The ‘22-’23 cohort includes alumnus Taina Vargas (Art Ed. ‘15), founder of Sankofa Anacaona Botanicals, a traveling apothecary that offers health & wellness products handcrafted in small batches with organic, locally-grown, and sustainably wildcrafted plant material. Taina has been participating in pop-up sales around Boston since 2019.

Another current member is alumnus Jess Baer (Illustration ‘07) of Baer Ceramics, a modern design shop focusing on small pieces for home and lifestyle. Baer Ceramics is gathering manufacturing quotes for the mass production of a prototype this spring, while working on several new designs.